In the early 1930s, educator and coach Sam Babb began assembling an all-female basketball team for a tiny college in Oklahoma. He combed various high schools in the Great Plains area, recruiting talent when he saw it. Like a real-life version of A League of Their Own, he put together a ragtag team of young women, including Doll, Lucille, La Homa, Coral, and Lera and Vera. The girls, many of whom grew up poor, were promised a shot at a better life and a free education. In return, the players committed to working hard, both on and off the court. And did they ever perform! The Cardinals embarked on an epic season that had them traveling all around the country in an unreliable school bus. They played (and won) game after game, eventually making their way to the national championship.
While the team was shooting hoops and winning over their adoring fans, a national movement was on the rise that threatened to take it all away. President Herbert Hoover’s wife was one of the most vocal opponents of female athletes. She believed that ladies were delicate and that overexertion could harm them.Today, no one thinks twice about a woman jogging down the street or breaking a sweat. But during the earlier half of the century such a sight was ground-breaking, even defiant. To read about the Dust Bowl Girls is to learn about an important, yet little-known part of history: the struggle for women to participate in competitive sports. It’s also a heartwarming tale of friendship, camaraderie and loyalty during a low point in America’s financial and agricultural past. Sports aficionados, women’s history buffs and those who enjoy inspired storytelling will consider this one a slam dunk.